Today's hunk of 3RP discs come mostly from Sweden, with one from Norway. I've never understood just how or why Sweden developed such a deep and rich prog scene, but both in the heydays of the 1970s and the modern era, they've done it. Anyway, here we go:
Destined Solitaire, by Beardfish (2009): I jumped on the Beardfish bandwagon when I picked up The Sane Day after their breakthrough performance at ProgDay a few years back. I eagerly scooped up the two Sleeping in Traffic discs and, once I heard about another new one on the way, put it on my radar, too. Now, I’m wondering if I’ve gotten hold of too much of a good thing. There’s nothing I can’t point to on the earlier albums that’s missing on this disc, but it seems like a pale imitation, for some reason. Like Beardfish-by-numbers, it lacks a spark of brilliance. The band’s productivity is impressive, but maybe Rikard and crew need to take a bit of time off to recharge the creative juices. Or maybe I just need to stop myself before I buy the next album without thinking about it.Tomorrow, the rest of the world!
Favorite track – “Coup de Grace”
Who’s the Boss in the Factory?, by Karmacanic (2009): Karmacanic is the baby of Jonas Reingold, long time bass player for The Flower Kings and (until recently) The Tangent. Although it’s a band proper, he drafts several folks from those two groups (including Stolt and Tillison themselves) to flesh out the sound on this album. Musically, it reminds me a little of both TFK and The Tangent, although without the heavy Canterbury leanings of the latter. It’s tasty symphonic prog, full of great playing.
Favorite track – “Send a Message from the Heart”
Agents of Mercy, by Agents of Mercy (2009): As I understand it, this started out as a Roine Stolt (of The Flower Kings fame) solo project, but spiraled into a real band thing, particularly with the vocal contributions of Unifaun’s Ned Sylvan. Other big names come along for the ride, too. Knowing that, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that this sounds sort of like Flower Kings lite, drained of some of that band’s more up tempo energy. It really didn’t click on first listen, but it’s already grown a bit on me, which is a good sign. As with most of Roine’s projects, some judicious editing probably wouldn’t have been a bad idea.
Favorite track – “Heroes & Beacons”
Tick Tock, by Gazpacho (2009): Norway’s Gazpacho usually get slagged off as a poor man’s modern Marillion, but that’s not quite fair. Like the current version of the M band, Gazpacho occupy a territory on the musical spectrum that’s more prog than straight out rock, but not obviously proggy. In that way, they’re drawing from the likes of Radiohead and Muse as much as Marillion. In fact, Gazpacho tends to have a more organic sound – violin, acoustic piano, lots of Melotron strings – than Marillion does these days. Marillion are spacey and atmospheric, while Gazpacho’s music has a nice amount of space and atmosphere – but they’re not the same thing. If you see what I’m getting at. Which you probably don’t.
Aurum Nostrum, by Sinkadus (1997): This is one of those albums where, the first time you listen to it, it strikes all the right chords (so to speak) and you think, “this is great stuff.” Then you listen to it the second time and the bloom falls off the rose. Make no mistake, this is good stuff - epic "woody" Swedish prog, with lots of flutes, vintage keys, and acoustic guitars. On the continuum of Swedish retro prog, it sits somewhere between Anglagard and White Willow. But there’s not really any bits that are “great”, rather than simply good, to latch onto. Maybe part of that is because I don’t speak Swedish and so the lyrics go right over my head. Still, a solid album overall.
Favorite track – “Manuel”
Elden Av Ar, by Trettioariga Kriget (2004): As hard to pronounce as it is to describe! Twin guitars propel most of this album, although they’re bolstered by the judicious use of piano, organ, and Melotron in spots. Of course, the lyrics are in Swedish, so I have no idea what they’re going on about. All I know is that this is the most pleasant of surprises in the clutch of discs I got at 3RP, if only because I can’t fathom for the life of me how this band jumped onto my radar screen in the first place. Highly recommended.
Favorite track – “Lang Historia”